Source: Global Voices
by Haute Haiku
Blackmail and extortion has proven to be a lucrative business towards gay people in Africa. Internet scams have become rampant as more gays are trying to come to terms with their sexuality.
The “unfamiliar gays” or the “newly coming out” are the target for this activity as they are lured into what is referred to as a “honey trap.” This is when unsuspecting persons are lured into dark alleys or traps with promises of sex or sexual favors, but actually meet with wicked characters who threaten, blackmail and sometimes assault.
This always starts with visits to the internet in search of love on dating websites, without suspecting that the alluring profiles on most of the sites are fake.
Easy Track Ghana suspects that the majority of these profiles are fake:
On international gay chat sites, there are a disproportionate number of young men from Ghana professing to search for true love. Many people get excited when first reading all the lovely gay profiles professing a search for romantic love. Well, none of it is true! Let us be direct and say that 98% of these guys online do not rank above a 3 on the Kinsey Scale of Human Sexuality. Only a small 2% of the guys on these gay chat sites are ‘gay' in the sense you think of it in the West.
A page on Squidoo has:
If you look at the online dating sites, you will notice that many of the guys from Ghana claim to be as young as 18. Many of these people are not actually gay. The ones that are, may not be genuinely looking for what they claim. The pictures are often fake and their profiles may well be copied from other peoples.
Due to the governments’ inability to counter assault and blackmail towards people of different sexual orientation, some bloggers have taken matters into their own hands to protect their own by shining a spotlight on the fakers.
An online movement against scammersA blog called Fakers2Go deals solely with the extortionists who trap their unsuspecting victims in houses and then show up with the police or gang who strip the victim naked.
The blackmailers work in groups; with the police and cyber café owners whose main aim is to squeeze the slightest cash from foreigners and the rich just because they can:
In Ghana, On-line criminals are targeting men who have sex with men (MSMs). They aim to extort money through kidnapping, violence and use of Ghana's archaic colonial law.
As homosexuality is illegal in Ghana, MSM's have no protection under the law and reporting a crime can lead to the victim being criminalised.
Furthermore, the police often work with the criminals to extort money and therefore cannot be trusted.
Easy Track Ghana writes:
Just remember, this is a business here. At many Internet cafes there will be 3 or 4 African boys working together, each having multiple chats with foreigners. This is the reason the chat and profiles all sound so similar. Some people are illiterate and hire typists who move from computer to computer answering chat messages. They work together to help each other formulate responses to questions in chats and email. They cut-and-paste sweet love.
Even more shocking though, there are some Internet cafes that are *completely* devoted to this type of activity. It is truly a business, with finders fees paid for arranging a meeting with a foreigner, and 11 and 12 year old year-old boys watching pornography en masse and learning how to chat ‘gay'. On the Internet, anybody can be anything, so you really do not know who you are chatting with.
Gay Ghana warns visitors to Ghana:
Dating sites are the most frequently used ways to meet a (potential) lover or gay guide in a foreign country. At sites like Outpersonals or Gaydar you will find that Ghana is the country in Africa with the most registered hopefuls. No other country in Africa has so many boys and men looking for a partner on Outpersonals with picture (often naked) than Ghana. Does this mean Ghana is the Gay paradise in Africa? No…! It may mean that there are plenty young men desperate enough to seek greener pastures elsewhere, whilst developed enough to have access to the internet and a digital camera.
GALCK, a Kenyan website, has a post titled, “Have you ever been blackmailed?” where they try to tally the amount of money Kenyan gays have been dishing out to the fakers in return for their silence. Gays are vulnerable and scared of the stigma from workmates, neighbors, friends because they know that their are life would be in danger and profession would wither under the glare of a homophobic community.
GALCK claims that blackmailers ask for as much as KSH 2,000,000 (approx $25,000) and as little as KSH 500 ($6)…
Have you ever been blackmailed because of your sexual orientation, or know someone who has? GALCK would like to establish the true cost of being Gay in Kenya. Blackmail and extortion are the twin crimes that afflict the LGBTI community in Kenya today, but majority of the cases are never reported. By compiling this report we shall be able to establish the extent and total cost of what we have paid to “keep the silence.”
From the stories we have gathered so far, our people have paid from Kshs. 500 to Kshs. 2,000 000. The latter having paid only a month ago. Let us join and compile this report - we shall not use real names, unless you want us to. You may also write your story down, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, if you do not want to come in person. Call us on +254-20-2426060 to arrange an interview.
Some basic safety advice
How do you identify the fakers on the net? Most write with horrible grammar. It is reported that most are illiterate and rely on typists who are hired to do the dirty work. Over-disclosure: they profess their love to you and narrate their background, a family member who needs a hair or nail transplant. At the first meeting, they ask for money even before you know them:
Any person who comes at you with instant love is a faker or a scammer. The instant love they feel for you is love for the opportunity that you present and the money you have. The scams sound sincere, but all involve you sending money. Even if you are a poor person in your country, you are a very rich person by comparison to most of your African chat buddies. This disparity in wealth profoundly affects any relationship you develop.
Safety Tips from Fakers2Go:
How not to get beaten up and robbed
Take great care when meeting people on line. Below are some of the things scammers have said to people when arranging to meet them:
- Bring your phone (because they want to steal it)
- Dress sexy / wear your good clothes, etc (because they will strip you naked and sell your clothes)
- Come alone (so that there is no one to help you)
- Come to Tema!
Sometimes they might text you a sexy message and ask you to respond. If you text back something sexual they can use that as evidence against you with the police. Yahoo chats and your online photos can also be used as evidence.
GALCK says that the first question a blackmailer asks any unfamiliar gay is whether they’ve heard of GALCK, if response is yes, they leave in a huff:
Secondly spread this information around to your networks. In fact every time you meet a new person, ask him or her if she/he knows about GALCK. This has two advantages, one - if your friend does not know about GALCK, s/he gets to know about our activities which s/he may find helpful some day. Secondly, GALCK is now the code word to ward off blackmailers. Indeed I have been told, the first question blackmailers ask their potential victims nowadays is if they know of GALCK. Do yourself and your friends a service, lets all spread the word, and especially the GALCK contacts so that our people can not just feel but actually be protected at all times.
In addition to having a recreational center library, movie sessions, forums and discussions on men who have sex with men (MSM) and gay pride events (CSWs), they have people who defend the gays and they stress that every lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or any queer identified persons should have their phone number saved on their phones….
Here is what to do when confronted with challenging circumstances.
First of all, we should all save this number in our phones - 020-2426060. This is the GALCK number, GALCK will always rush to your defence when confronted by difficult legal situations regarding your sexuality. And this includes even when you have been caught in the ‘very act’ - especially if you have been caught in the act. So comrades, shed off the fear!